Creating a “Collaborative Syllabus” Using Trello

I believe very strongly in creating a participatory learning environment for students but when it comes to creating a syllabus it seems like the only option is to use the standard “banking” model of education (Freire). As the instructor for a course, I lay out specific texts, assignments and themes for the students to digest in class and organize it in an easy to follow document we call the syllabus. [^1] But I want something that can move beyond this parameter and allow the students to participate in the actual development of the content within the syllabus.

My question is: How do I get the students more involved and interacting with the actual syllabus from its very creation to how it gets used in class throughout the semester?

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This is where trello flexibility comes into play. Continue reading Creating a “Collaborative Syllabus” Using Trello

Moving Deeper Still: Three Roots of Community

Flickr credit: Elf-8
Flickr Credit: Elf-8 “Racines/Roots/Raices”

How do we go deeper into this community?

I have, for most of my life, been someone trying to organize community, bringing people together, and building connections. For a lot of that time, I put emphasis on showing up for one another: presence is key I would say.

I got a monumental lesson in presence twelve years ago. When my step-father committed suicide in 2003, those who were the most helpful during that crisis, were the people who showed up. Those who came and sat with us. Brought the ministry of cookies and casseroles. They offered no grand theories. No trite explanations. What they offered were silent bodies, sitting in prayerful support. Like a silent cloud of witnesses visible to the naked eye. It was here that I learned how presence is the roots and the ligaments of community. It was faithful presence that got us through that dark night. Continue reading Moving Deeper Still: Three Roots of Community

The Imagined Rebellion – Kierkegaard


A revolutionary age is an age of action; ours is the age of advertisement and publicity. Nothing ever happens but there is immediate publicity everywhere. In the present age a rebellion is, of all things, the most unthinkable. Such an expression of strength would seem ridiculous to the calculating intelligence of our times. On the other hand a political virtuoso might bring off a feat almost as remarkable. He might write a manifesto suggesting a general assembly at which people should decide upon a rebellion, and it would be so carefully worded that even the censor would let it pass. At the meeting itself he would be able to create the impression that his audience had rebelled, after which they would all go quietly home – having spent a very pleasant evening. -Soren Kierkegaard (The present Age, p. 35)

Continue reading The Imagined Rebellion – Kierkegaard

Connecting Learning to Tradition

There is an interesting article on how various people find themselves studying religion in the NY Times today. In the article, they talk about how attaching religious conversation and shared language to a tradition helps create a place to build community and that it is keeping these things connected that is one of the gifts and challenges of education today:

Within higher education, divinity programs often stand apart from the cult of relativism in the liberal arts and the utilitarian emphasis in professional schools focusing on business and law, for example.

“If you were simply looking for the skills, you might go to the Kennedy School of Government,” said the Rev. Dudley C. Rose, the associate dean for ministry studies at Harvard. “And philosophy and liberal-arts fields have given up on the project of finding a moral language, an articulation of values. That language isn’t found in many places. And when you find it, it’s not easy to abstract it. You have to connect it to a tradition.”

Source: Secular, but Feeling a Call to Divinity School

What Rose is suggesting has been given up at other institutions, I see as taking place at a school like Guilford College, where I now work. I think the tension is being held between these differing fields at Guilford. There is a diversity of religion and non-religious expressions, but students come together in various ways, learning how to articulate moral language and values or working out in deeper ways what they already come with, that are connected to the Quaker tradition (or challenge it). Of course, not every class does this explicitly, but my sense so far is that the campus as a whole tries to embody this grounding in tradition in ways that make the school rather unique within the landscape of offerings.

If God is Love – Peggy Morrison

“If God is Love, then all Love is of God. Where Love is—there God is—without exception. If you truly love, or are loved, by anyone, then God is in that relationship, named or unnamed. God touches them through your love. And because God is love, and love is indestructible, as long as you love them you cannot loose them” (Peggy Morrison, Miracle Motors, p. 201).

Love In the Face of Great Odds

This is a message I brought to Guilford College’s Quaker Leadership Scholars Program  meeting for worship Friday, October 2, 215. A reflection on Luke 6:27-32.

This evening I wanted to talk briefly with you about love.

I realize picking this topic puts me in danger on falling into making truisms like “Love is a Verb,” “love is blind, or “Love that is true lasts forever.” But I am not interested in boring you with such bland and untrue statements, nor am I interested interested in leaving you feeling warm and cozy.

Today I hope to put some teeth into love.

I want us to consider for the next few moments what it takes for love to grow, and what love has to do with being Quakers. Continue reading Love In the Face of Great Odds

On Solitude and Sabbath


“…there was silence in heaven for about a half hour” (Rev. 8:1).

Solitude and Sabbath are two realities that overlap and depend upon each other. There is an interdependent relationship between solitude and Sabbath. In order to practice one, we need the other as a part of our lives.

Solitude is learning how to be disarmed inwardly in the midst of even the most dramatic outward movement: the self-surrendering motion of a tireless companion finally laying their head down to rest. Solitude is learning how to practice inner sanctuary. Solitude is like nails on the chalkboard to a multi-tasking, “relevant,” productivity oriented life. Solitude and authenticity know one another intimately and are in a committed relationship.

Whereas solitude happens in the midst of motion, Sabbath is a full stop. It is the period to solitude’s coma. However, Sabbath is more than rest, it is intention to re-root oneself in the soil of God’s love and the compost of our spiritual mothers, fathers, prophets and poets. It is the moment when I recognize that I am not the world and the world is not me. Sabbath is the practice of knowing “where I end and you begin.”

If we do not learn to value both solitude and Sabbath, if silence inwardly and outwardly is something to fear and flee, we will not only wear ourselves thin and hollow, we will lose something far more tragic: the centered-self that is able to remain in relationship with others while remaining distinct from them. The poet Rilke puts it like this:

“Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other.”

To practice solitude and Sabbath is to learn how to be together in community, while remaining independent from one another, protecting, bordering and saluting one another. In Quaker silence, we learn how to hold a bordering and protective space for one another, allowing one another to be who they are in communion with Jesus without any pretense on our part. What a beautiful way to honor one another. And yet, isn’t this is why so many of us fear the silence? It requires us to let go of distraction, domination, and productivity. Who are we without those modern attributes?

On the seventh day God stopped. Observed. Saluted. Sitting back, God let the movement of the creation unfold. Sabbath is the practice of remembering it is God who was the first to protect, border and salute creation. And like God we can do the same. On the seventh day God embraced silence and rest, reminding us that for relationships to flourish we must learn how to be together in silence and independent in rest.


Do I practice silence as a form of both solitude and Sabbath, protecting, bordering, and saluting all of creation?


Flickr: Ferran Jordà